News Digest — 12/29/21

Bennett: There Is No Place For A Palestinian Consulate In Jerusalem

Speaking at the Knesset on Monday night (27th), Prime Minister Naftali Bennett reiterated his opposition to reopening the US consulate in Jerusalem.

“The government under my leadership has repeatedly clarified its position that there is no place for a Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem,” Bennett said.  “Jerusalem is the capital of one state, the State of Israel – period.”

Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority Prime MInister Mohammad Shtayyeh told activists in Tulkarm on Monday (27th) that the consulate would be the “nucleus of an American embassy in Palestine,” the Tazpit Press Service reported.

“We are focusing on a consulate because we want an American address that will take care of Palestinian affairs and form the nucleus of an American embassy in Palestine and express the recognition that Jerusalem is occupied Arab land,” Shtayyeh said.

In 2018, President Donald Trump acknowledged Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US embassy there.  Consular services for Israelis and Palestinians were shifted to the embassy.  US ties with the PA were effectively downgraded as the consulate’s Palestinian Affairs Unit was folded into the embassy.

The Biden administration and Democratic party see the consulate as a key step in rebooting US-Palestinian relations.

Critics say that opening a consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem infringes on Israeli sovereignty, re-divides Jerusalem and rewards Palestinian intransigence.

In a further complication, the consulate building is located in downtown Jerusalem, in the western half of the city.

US Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Brian Mckeon conceded to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in October that the US would need Israel’s consent and diplomatic accreditation to reopen the building as a consulate.



Report: Hezbollah Bolstering Forces In Syria

Hezbollah is developing military bases and infrastructure in the central Syrian province of Homs, the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat reported Monday (27th).

According to the report, the Iranian-backed Shiite terrorist group, which is based in Lebanon, has been sending additional troops to neighboring Syria, as well as dozens of military vehicles and a large number of machine guns, and has set up checkpoints on major roads.

Hezbollah seems to be focusing its efforts in an area some 25 miles east of Homs, the report said, adding the deployment followed a tour of senior Hezbollah officials in the area last week. 

The daily noted that the deployment was in line with Hezbollah’s plan to expand its influence in the war-torn country, as well as do the bidding of its patron, Iran, especially since Russia, whose troops are deployed in Syria as well, wants to maintain its interests there.



Arab Influencers Advocate For Israel On Social Media

As photos of fast cars, delicious meals, and dreamy vacations rack up ‘likes’ on Instagram, two Arab influencers with tens of thousands of followers have decided to show their audience something remarkably different: their love for Israel.

Loay Alshareef, an Emirati based in Abu Dhabi, and Yosef Haddad, an Arab Israeli from Nazareth, are leveraging their large following on social media to display a different reality of Israel that’s specifically aimed at winning over the hearts and minds of Arabic speakers across the globe.

“I was educated on the false perception of Israel as a Jewish apartheid state, one that does not grant Arabs their rights,” Alshareef told Israel Hayom.

“The dramatic turning point for me happened in 2010, when I was exposed to a completely different truth.  The truth will set you free!”

Alhareef said he lived with a Jewish family in France while studying abroad, and the experience left him forever changed.  During his time with the family, he learned about the shared Biblical and religious heritage of Jews and Muslims.

He noted that for the first time, he “was exposed to the Jews historic ties to the region, which is a settled fact, and not the lie that they are colonizers.  I changed my opinion about the Jews.”

He added that he also learned that Israel allows freedom of religion for those living there.”

Eventually, Alshareef partnered with long-time advocate Yosef Haddad, a veteran of the 2006 Lebanon war who is an Arab Israeli from Nazareth.

Haddad was one of Israel’s earliest Arab supporters, and has been vocal about his pride in both being an Israeli citizen and his Arab heritage – something that had previously been thought of as impossible by the Arab world at large.

Alshareef told Israel Hayom that he is friends with “a lot of Arab Israelis, among them Muslims, Christians and Druze, who are proud of their Israeliness.  In contrast, the fact that there are still Arab Israelis with Israeli citizenship who accuse Israel of war crimes against the Palestinians and are not loyal to it, is inconceivable to my mind.”

“They, alongside Palestinian, anti-Israeli propaganda are part of the problem, concealing the truth, which is the complete opposite.  To our delight, we now have social media, and the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities in particular, that are helping create a new reality for Jews who live in the [Arab] Gulf.”

Both men said they hope that speaking out in support of Israel on social media will help connect Israel further to its neighbors, strengthen ties in the region, and change Arab perception about the Jewish State.



UN KIds’ Book Erases Israel From Map Of Middle East

A new children’s book published in the UK is facing criticism for a cover which displays a colorful map of the Middle East – without Israel, which is clearly labeled Palestine.

The book, titled “Amazing Women of the Middle East: 25 Stories from Ancient Times to Present day,” aims to educate children about achievements by women in the region.

But the clear exclusion of Israel has drawn ire from British NGO UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI), who said in a statement that the Pikku Publishing House responsible for the map should amend the cover to include Israel.

Because the book is listed under “Educational resources” on Pikku’s website, UKFLI pressed the UK’s Education Ministry not to use the book in classrooms, as it promotes an inaccurate and biased narrative about the Middle East.

The decision to exclude Israel from a book about Middle Eastern women is notable when considering the fact that most Israelis have deep roots in the region. 

“This is a very attractive book, and it is a great idea for children to read about amazing women of the Middle East,” said UKLFI director Caroline Turner.

“However, to have excluded Israel from the map of the Middle East, and to have excluded all Israeli and Jewish women from the book is misleading and biased, and tends to promote a view of the Middle East that completely delegitimizes Israel.”



Jewish Man Punched, Given Black Eye In Brooklyn For Wearing IDF Shirt

Two Jewish men, one of whom was wearing an IDF sweatshirt, were attacked in Brooklyn on Sunday (26th), the New York Post reported.

Blake Zavadsky and Ilan Kaganovich were in a shoe shop in the city when two attackers accosted them.

They asked us what we were doing in their neighborhood,” Zavadsky told the Post.

Zavadsky was the one wearing the sweatshirt, and he said that one of the attackers punched him, telling him that if he didn’t take it off, he would “rock him.”  When he refused, he got punched again and doused with iced coffee.  The two attackers also reportedly threatened Kaganovich that if he got involved they would hurt him too.

Zavadsky told the Post that the man who punched him asked him how he can support “these dirty Jews.”

“I cannot believe this happened,” Kaganovich told the Post.  “We should be able to wear what we want to wear.”

“Blake and I are Jewish – we should support Israel without it being a problem.  My family moved from the Soviet Union for this reason – to be able to live a better life.”

Zavadsky told the Post that he intends to continue wearing his sweatshirt in public.